Friday, July 17, 2015

Compatibility : 2015 Nicholl Fellowship Quarterfinalist

I think I've quit writing about 100 times. I've never wanted to write novels, I've only ever been interested in writing screenplays. The syntax seemed to work with left-leaning, software engineering, brain.  John August has mentioned this on Script Notes, that screenwriting lends itself more to "tech" people.

In 2004 my third screenplay Four of a Kind advanced to the Top 100 (semi-finals) of the third season of Project Greenlight. When I heard that news, I don't think I'd ever been more excited in my life. I figured after 18 months of screenwriting, all the hard work had paid off.  Even if the film didn't win and go into production, I could tell everyone I was a Top 100 semi-finalists and doors would open.

The doors never opened.

What I often heard was, no one gives a shit about any contests other than the Nicholl.

Well, today, after 12 years of screenwriting, I'm a Quarter Finalists in the 2015 Nicholl Fellowship with my screenplay "Compatibility" previously titled "The Love Algorithm".

Here's the logline if you're curious and of course reach out if you'd like to read it.
A Facebook engineer develops an algorithm to predict people’s compatibility with each other, but as he uses it to buffet a relationship with a Wired journalist, he finds its sudden release to the world comes with unintended consequences.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I am Jack's second Kickstarter

I launched my second Kickstarter on Monday March 17th, 2014 for a blog post I wrote four years ago called The Evolution of a Gen-X Music Purchaser. I hope you think it's cool.

Friday, February 21, 2014

My next project is a short film called The Evolution of a Gen-X Music Purchaser

It’s a project I’ve been thinking about for close to a year now. It’s based upon this blog post I wrote in 2010. It tells the story of one man’s travels from the 90s til now with milestones in his life tied to way he’s able to consume music.
It’s a short film I hope to crowd fund. I’ll be launching that Kickstarter campaign in the next month or so. Right now I’m still figuring out how much we need to raise. Currently I'm hoping to license music from groups such as A Tribe Called Quest, Suicidal Tendencies, Slayer, Nine Inch Nails and Rage Against the Machine.
While it's a short film, it could almost be described as a long form music video.
I hope we pull it off.
While I didn’t hit my funding goal last time, I’m confident that this time I'll have something at the end of the campaign to show to everyone.
You can read more about it at www.genxmp.comSubscribe to the the mailing list and like us on Facebook.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

"Lone Survivor" movie deviates pretty significantly from the book

"The book is better." - Some Asshole

You know that guy? The guy who always tells you to read the book, or the book was better. You know the people last May who were tweeting arrogantly about how they weren't surprised about the Game of Thrones Red Wedding since they had read the books and knew it was coming. As if reading something ahead of time was some sort of mighty feat. You know that guy? I hate that fucking guy. Don't be that guy.

Me? I'm about to be that guy and hopefully in the next few grafs I'll have explained myself well enough for you to understand why.

Lone Survivor is a movie written and directed by Peter Berg starring Mark Wahlberg which tells the tale of the failed Operation Red Wings where a four man SEAL recon team whose op was compromised and which ultimately lead to three of the SEALs being killed in combat and several others being shot out of the sky when the rescure helicopter was hit with an RPG.

The movie portrays the fire fight incredibly well. It's some of the most intense visuals I've seen since Black Hawk Down and since Saving Private Ryan. Black Hawk Down suffered a bit since there's just so many characters that you never really grew attached.  Saving Private Ryan's final battle scene got it right. You were with these guys for 2+ hours and suddenly they start dropping like flies. Who didn't quietly mourn when Jackson (the sniper) was blown out of his snipers nest or when Melish had his own knife slowly rip into his heart. You felt something.

I felt every bullet that Danny Dietz took in the Lone Survivor movie. I felt it when they were falling back. Literally falling back, tumbling down a mountain as they, to put it lightly, were getting their asses handed to them. I felt it when Matt Axelson took a bullet to the eye and when in his final moments kept firing his pistol until there were no more bullets. I felt it when Mike Murphy knew that he made the moral and correct position even though he was almost certainly signing his team's death warrants.

The fire fight starts around 50 minutes into the movie and lasts for almost 40 minutes. Normally non-stop action gets boring (see The Matrix Revolutions) but here it's so well done that the 40 minutes just flies by. At the 90 minute mark of the movie is when the most interesting part of the Lone Survivor story starts. At least for me.

Afghan villagers find Marcus and offer him sanctuary. Pashtunwali is an afghan custom where if they offer you assistance they are honor bound to protect you. No matter what. So they bring Marcus in and protect him.

Here is where the movie just completely fails the story.

The fire fight ends at the 1 hour 30 minute mark.  Marcus gets rescued 1 hour and 49 minutes into the movie and the movie quickly ends.


Nineteen minutes to cover Marcus crawling several miles on a broken leg until he was found by the Afghan villages? Nineteen minutes to cover them treating Marcus' wounds? Nineteen minute to cover the decrepit can of soda Marcus drank from which gave him severe stomach problems? Nineteen minutes to cover how they gave him heroine to treat his pain? Nineteen minutes to cover how Marcus could see the Taliban out his window, knowing they were out there but the villagers kept to their promise?

It's nineteen minutes because none of that is covered.

In the movie you get Mark Wahlberg asking for a knife, cutting out a bullet in his leg, treating himself. Drinking clear water and eating some food while the villagers send someone off to hand the American's a map from Marcus. Then the Taliban storm the village as the Army roars in to save the day and find Marcus laying in a hut.

It's been years since I read the book but from what I recall Marcus and a Villager leave the hut and are running away when either Rangers or Green Beret's come out of nowhere and rescue him.

Also, the other tragic part of this story were the SEALs and Army Night Stalkers who perished in the rescue helicopter when it was shot down. In the book, Marcus has already been knocked out by an RPG blast and Axelson is presumed dead but in the movie both Axelson and Marcus see the helicopter and see it blown up. That's fine. Creative license here is fine. But this incident happens so fast it's almost glossed over.

After Mike Murphy makes the call on his sat phone back to base, which ultimately lead to his death as he had to find an open area to make the call, the chinooks almost immediately take off. We then learn that a few blackhawks have to be grounded because the Apache helicopters aren't available to pepper the area since it was a hot A.O.  What that means is that you typically have an Apache attack helicopter light up an area prior to inserting troops if you know the area has hostiles. Since the chinooks kept going with the rescue team they didn't have the Apaches available to provide air cover and we know how this ends. And again the movie just gets this wrong. Maybe it's the editing? Maybe it's something else but this was a major part of the story and it just kinda was glossed over.

I know Peter Berg had a very difficult time financing this film. No one wanted to make it and I can understand why. No one wants to go to the movies and see American's get killed. We don't want to see our best soldiers get beaten. No one wants to see the truly dark side of a war, hell no one wants to be reminded that we're still in a war. It was only after the SEALs became something of a hot property because of the Bin Laden raid and Act of Valor that this movie finally got the go ahead.

Did they just not have enough money to tell a longer story? Did the part of Marcus at the village which took place over a few days get cut out of the movie for time? Why did they change the ending to include the cavalry storming the village and finding Marcus instead of the other way? Maybe I'm remembering the story incorrectly since it's been so many years.

Also, war films need to find a better way of humanizing the characters other than showing us that they have wives back home and that they love them. We get it. But there has to be something else because I just roll my eyes when you see it. Not because it isn't true and not because I'm sure it's what real soldiers talk about but because it's such a cliche. In the book I recall reading that one of the four SEALs was doing the New York Times crossword puzzle while on the helicopter. This tells me so much about the character and it was never brought up in the movie. Anyway that's just a minor critique about character development in general.

So, in summary, go see the movie for the firefight alone. It's some of the most heart wrenching and intense forty minutes of film you'l ever see and fight back the tears at the end when you see the real heroes of Operation Red Wings and see the true cost of war.

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Bears Fan Perspective: What to expect if Lovie Smith becomes your head coach in 2014

This being Black Monday, the NFL has fired five head coaches. Add in the early December canning of Gary Kubiak and we're up to six vacancies.

While I think Lovie Smith shouldn't get one, he most certainly will.


Because there is a ton of out-of-town stupid when it comes to Lovie.

A big (and false) perception about Lovie Smith is that he was unfairly fired last season after going 10-6. Coaches don't get fired after posting a winning record. It had to be stupid Jay Cutler's stupid fault because he threw too many stupid interceptions. 2012 was the fifth time in six seasons the Bears failed to reach the playoffs. It was the second year in a row where they completely fell apart at the end of the season (what Lovie calls the 3rd and 4th quarter) after storming out of the gate. It was Lovie's fifth offensive coordinator and third since acquiring Jay Cutler. For fucks sake, Mike Tice was their offensive coordinator. Actually Tice was going to be the running coordinator and Jeremy Bates was going to be the passing coordinator. Tice of course wouldn't stand for this and he was made the OC and Bates the quarterbacks coach. Now ask yourself this:

What the fuck is a passing coordinator?

What other team in the NFL has a passing coordinator or a running coordinator? Not a one.

Welcome to a Lovie coached football team where you make sure you hire coaches less competent than you are and fire the good coaches to prevent them from ever taking your job.

Reports surfaced today that Lovie Smith is the leading candidate to replace Greg Schiano in Tampa Bay. Here is what Tampa Bay fans can expect if Lovie Smith does in fact become the new head coach of the Bucs.

1. An opportunistic and swarming defense which will give up big plays in crucial moments at the end of the game.
2. A merry-go-round of offensive coordinators and coaches who are incompetent.
3. Bone headed decisions when it comes to challenges.
4. Burning timeouts very early in games/half's because of incompetent coaches who can't call plays competently.
5. Arrogant and pompous press conferences filled with arrogance, pompousness and repetition.
6. You'll learn that it's not a 16 game season but four quarters. "We're 2-2 in the first quarter."
7. Bad offensive draft picks.
8. Bad early round defensive draft picks.
9. Refusing to take leads in games early by going for it on fourth down. (Sadly this seems to be a trend in the NFL)

Is Lovie Smith a good head coach? I think he's a great leader of men and a great defensive teacher from Monday through Saturday. On Sundays? Not so much. The Bears very rarely made adjustments in game which goes back to his arrogance and stubborness. They have a plan and they are sticking to it no matter what.

As the NFL dives face first toward becoming more the Arena League than the grid-iron gladiators of yesteryear  it strikes me as odd that someone so inept at putting together an offensive staff would be considered for any head coaching position in this modern day NFL.

Perhaps I'm wrong and Lovie has learned from his year off. But I'm not wrong. If NFL GMs and owners were smart they would bring on Lovie as a defensive coordinator where he's meant to be and let him thrive there. Don't have him worry about timeouts or challenges and don't let him worry about the offense (which he doesn't anyway).

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Xbox One outrage is bullshit

Apparently Microsoft does give a shit.

If you feel offended or are outraged at the Xbox One announcement and proudly puff your chest out and cancel your pre-order and switch it to PS4. Congratulations to you.

Microsoft doesn't give a shit.

If you proudly hold on to your Xbox 360 games and want to play them for eternity and won't switch to a new console because you can't play your precious old games on it. Congratulations to you.

Microsoft doesn't give a shit.

If you lurk on the second market purchasing used games, or trading in your new games for used games or swap games with more than one friend consistently and you're outraged to learn that sharing with your friends is actually piracy and you won't switch to a system that doesn't allow it. Congratulations to you.

Microsoft doesn't give a shit.

Don't want a system that requires once every 24 hours to be connected to the internet to ensure publishers that people aren't ripping off their intellectual property? Can't stomach the notion that your precious privacy is somehow tied to a device that has to have some sort of connectivity to function yet proudly hold up your Android and shun The Man? Congratulation to you.

Microsoft doesn't give a shit.

For years I've been hoping for this to happen. As a Microsoft fan through and through, I've longed for the days where they adopted the Apple mantra of if you don't like it, don't fucking buy it.

You want the latest iOS for your $900 iPad you purchased three years ago? No. Fuck you.
You want to install iTunes on your four year old MacBook which didn't have an intel chip? Nope. Fuck you. Buy our new ones or don't use our systems.

You can't innovate or move forward if you're constantly supporting old systems. You can't create new and innovative systems if you need to keep supporting the past. Apple learned this a long time ago. Microsoft started to learn it recently. At some point you need to cut off support for Windows XP and force people to upgrade. At some point you can't allocate resources meant to push the envelope and instead are used to make sure a ten year old game works on a brand spanking new system.


People look at this as a money hungry corporation that won't let you play your precious old games on their new system when in reality the program is architecture. You wouldn't buy a PC game and expect it to run on a Mac would you? Sure your old PC games will work on any PC as long as you meet the requirements right? True. But Xbox 360 and Xbox One share only a name. The underlying core system is completely different.

How does PS4 handle this?

Either they're using a very similar chip, or they  built an emulator.
Why doesn't Microsoft use an emulator? Because, say it with me now:

Microsoft doesn't give a shit!

And I love it.

If you carry around a Smartphone that is always connected to a network, then you have no legs to stand on here. Seriously, you're a hypocrite if you have an iPhone or an Android and are complaining about a system which must "phone home" once a day.

You probably have had your Xbox 360 plugged into Ethernet or on your Wi-Fi network every single day you've owned the system. So, are you mad about the lack of choice? I mean, for what? I don't get it. I've yet to hear a single logical explanation to why this is a bad thing.

The only time this would be inconvenient is if your internet goes out from something other than a power outage. Then, yes you might not be able to play your games. But how often does your internet go out? If it goes out a lot, go with a different provider. If you can't, then, as Microsoft put it. Buy an Xbox 360. Some have seen that as a dick move. I see it as Microsoft embracing their inner Apple. "If you don't like it, fuck off."


I'm not a used game purchaser, so I can't really speak to this market. But I will say this.
This isn't a Microsoft decision. This is a game publisher decision and Microsoft embraced it probably to have more exclusives on their system. If you're a publisher and you can guarantee that your intellectual property isn't going to be rampantly ripped off, who are you going to go with?

Also, the one problem I see with the used game market is this.

When you buy a game, you are purchasing a license to play the game. You own the box, the disc, etc.. but you don't own the "game". You can sell your individual copy once.
The problem comes in when you sell that copy to someone else who is trying to make money off it. The original copyright holder doesn't get any royalties for that and that's not cool.


Here's the only place where I'm in somewhat agreement with everyone. The Kinect needs to be on for the system to work. The Kinect is a high resolution 1080p camera pointed right at you and your living room [or wherever you hook up your system]. That's scary to me. Considering what we've learned about the NSA's Prism program. 

While the Kinect is an amazing piece of technology which will possibly revolutionize gameplay and television watching, it's the scariest part of the Xbox One, and the thing most likely to be abused.


I pre-ordered the Xbox One.  They sold me at their first announcement showcasing all the things it could do with your television and cable system. They basically released a system which was everything I hoped the rumored Apple TV set would be. Granted, I'm assuming Apple has something up their sleeve, but with the gross looking iOS 7 reveal, I'm losing faith in Apple's ability to design sleek and visually appealing things. I used iOS 7 briefly and while the control center is wonderful, the thing looks like something an intern designed with MS Paint.

But that's neither here nor there.

If I were  a hardcore gamer who didn't give two shits about cable television or seeing my fantasy team updated while watching the Bears game, I'd go with a PS4. Seriously, if you game a lot you should buy a PS4. But if you're not part of that 5% of people, and you like watching cable TV and you like the idea of no longer requiring a remote control or memorizing channels, or if you realize that the Xbox One is now a platform and there is now a layer between that system and your television viewing experience and you realize what a group of clever developers could do in that "layer" then you, like me, will probably be intrigued enough to check out the Xbox One.

This talk about Sony winning the console wars is not only foolish but it's meaningless. Years ago MS knew that the desktop would be dead at some point and they needed to get into your living room. They needed to take over the entertainment hub of the average consumers household. They realized the quickest way would be through a gaming console.

Xbox was the start.

Xbox 360 won the console wars of the past due to better games, a cheaper price, an easier to develop on platform, and the ability to serve as a media streaming server.

Xbox One is probably the culmination of decades of planning on Microsoft's part. It's an entertainment system that happens to play games. 

Admittedly they had probably the worst PR week since the old days of bugs and PC-only viruses.
So, to those claiming the PS4 has already won this console war.

Congratulations to you.

Microsoft doesn't give a shit.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Writing a screenplay in one week: Day Four - Seven

Total Page count: 95

So much for writing this every day. This was actually a procrastination attempt that whenever I got stuck somewhere in the script I would just come here and write these blog entries.

But then I wasn't really getting stuck anymore and then other things happened.

What other things?

Well around page 60 we got word that maybe our entire premise wasn't going to work even though we had written a one page synopsis that outlined the entire premise and we got the go ahead to write the feature.

So that held up any writing for about a day or so. I wasn't going to keep writing if the entire thing needed to be scrapped. Well that turned out to be somewhat of a miscommunication/misunderstanding. So I asked that they come back with exactly what they were looking for out of this screenplay.

They came back with almost exactly what we had written. Almost. There were a few things here or there that were different, and I thought what we had written was a bit better or at least more current/topical. So I sent a very long breakdown of what we had written so far (the 60 pages) and they said they liked it and to keep going.

So around 5pm yesterday, June 7th, exactly seven days after starting, I came in around 95 pages.

I was shooting for 100-110, but 95 is still feature length and it still gives us room to add more if need be. Also, for something that will probably have a relatively low budget ( less than 1 million ) the less pages the better as it would cut down on the shooting days.

Writing a feature length script in one week isn't remarkable. There are some people who can write one in an even shorter amount of time, however even at one week it needs work. I'm sure there are sub plots we could add or explore, scenes which probably run long and many, many other things. But one week is still a pretty quick turn around.

So what did I do to just get through it?

Well, getting through it is the important part. As I've noted before, until it's actually on paper and an actual thing, you don't have shit. It's an idea and no one gives a fuck about your idea. I mean, they do, but they can't buy your idea.

I don't do a lot of prep work. Most of the prep work I do in my head. Louise CK has mentioned this as well that he'll "write" in his head for 3 months, then just puke it out on the page in a 3 or 4 day writing binge.  That's basically my style as well.

So I suppose the point I'm trying to make is you need to just keep writing. If you get "stuck" at any part just write through it. If you know what the next scene is going to be, just go write that. I know John August does this method. He'll actually write out of order. If he knows the scene that takes place that sends us into Act 3, even though he's just written the setup, then he'll go write that. I sorta did that as I knew exactly what I wanted the final images to be as it contrasted with the opening shot. So I wrote that way ahead of time.  That's another big thing.


If you don't know how the movie ends, don't start writing. I've got about 10 scripts on my hard drive that range from a few pages to 30 to 40 pages that just sit there going nowhere. Why? Probably because I had no idea what the ending was going to be when I started writing. The ending is so important becuase it lets you know how to start.

Another rule I try to follow on first drafts is to not go back and revise. At least don't do it yourself. You'll never finish if you do that. On this project, I co-wrote it with my brother so I had him review pages as I wrote them and then asked him to think about future scenes we needed and to write them. He writes everything in novel form and I'll take what he has and translate it to screenplay format. But while I was cranking out 10 to 20 pages per day I would send him the latest pages and he'd go through it and write notes or suggestions. I often didn't read these right away as I'd just get stuck in the previous pages and not move forward.

Again the key is, MOVE FORWARD!

I think it was day five or six where I finally went through about six pages of his notes and cleaned up the first 80 pages or so.

Today, we are going to read the script out loud which can help you find things that just don't make any sense and do a final polish before sending it to the producer for their review.

Good times.